The WHO recently released a brief on “The Transformative Role of Hospitals in the Future of Primary Health Care” as part of its Technical Series on Primary Healthcare. It builds on two documents, “People-Centred Hospitals towards Universal Health Coverage: a WHO Position Paper” and “A Global Vision for Person- and Community Centered Hospitals in a PHC-based Health System,” both of which are in press. Aceso Global CTO Gerard La Forgia participated as a technical expert to and contributing author of these foundational documents.
The release of this brief is timely, reflecting a growing consensus in the global health community about the fundamental role of primary care in achieving person-centered universal health coverage (UHC), and the need to rethink traditional functions of hospitals to support this agenda.
Historically, hospital and primary care systems have operated in siloes, with hospitals isolated and primarily focused on what happens within their walls, and largely absent from preventive and promotive care. The resulting care model has been fragmented, inefficient, and curative in focus, often with an outsized share of services delivered by hospitals, due in part to the lack of integration across the health system. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this has contributed to distorted costs and poor quality; these systems do not serve NCDs adequately, and recent health gains and longer lifespans are being jeopardized by their failures.
The WHO Expert Group brief envisions a future of primary healthcare in which hospitals break out of their walls and actively contribute to the development of comprehensive primary care, in partnership with primary care providers and communities. New roles for hospitals will be coupled with improved hospital organization and management to raise performance, supported by an enabling institutional and policy environment that facilitates needed change. The brief outlines this vision, and touches upon pathways to transformation. The forthcoming WHO position paper provides more specifics and will serve as a resource for policymakers and planners in LMICs.
Since its founding, Aceso Global has been at the forefront of this global movement calling for renewed thinking on the roles of hospitals in people-centered healthcare systems. CEO Maureen Lewis and CTO Gerard La Forgia were founding members of and led the Center for Global Development Hospitals for Health Working Group, and have been consistent voices highlighting the key role of hospitals in reaching UHC. Aceso Global has worked in numerous countries to strengthen hospital management, raise performance, and integrate inpatient and primary care. Most notably, we provided options for a hospital PPP in St. Lucia, led the production of a Vertical Integration/Network Diagnostic and Readiness Tool for the Joint Learning Network and advised a number of countries on hospital reform, among other efforts.
This WHO brief highlights the nexus in the hospital, primary care and UHC agendas, and represents an important step forward in the global movement toward better integrated, more responsive healthcare systems.